Guest post by Claude Moraes. Claude is Labour MEP for London and Socialist and Democrats spokesperson on Justice and Home Affairs. He is a former Director of JCWI.
Recently I wrote about how the new asylum and refugee situation was creating a major new challenge for a European Union still struggling to make progress on a common European Asylum System.
I am now the Parliament’s Rapporteur on the Seasonal Workers Directive, and I can see that we are now in the midst of an unprecedented attempt, as the result of the Lisbon Treaty, to move the legislative agenda forward on both asylum and immigration.
This is happening in a European environment hostile to progress on a common immigration policy. Most EU member states are experiencing austerity and high unemployment, and the far right is exerting pressure on centre-right governments around the EU to become ever more anti-immigrant. Meanwhile, the latest attempt by Berlusconi and Sarkozy to amend the Schengen treaty hits a new low. The move to ‘manage’ a dispute on the ‘burden-sharing’ of Tunisian asylum seekers damages the free movement principles on which the EU was founded.
On the EU agenda right now are three directives which form the so-called ‘Legal Migration Package’.
These are: the Single Permit, which would authorise third-country nationals to reside in the EU and establish a common platform of rights for holders of the permit; a directive on seasonal workers; and a directive on intra-corporate transfers (ICTs).
These directives mark a renewed effort by the European Commission and the European Parliament with its new Lisbon Treaty powers to make progress from the 1999 Tampere European Council goals to formulate what may be the beginnings of a common immigration policy.
The directives also try to resume the faltering path taken by previous attempts at law-making in this area – the directive on sanctions against employers, and the Blue Card Directive opening legal routes for highly skilled non-EU nationals.
The directives going through their parliamentary stages now mark one significant change that is testing the political resolve of member states – the Seasonal Workers Directive will be the first EU directive to cover unskilled migration.
This brings forward many issues which must be tackled if a genuinely fair common policy is to be built. The Seasonal Workers Directive creates new legal routes for seasonal workers, but to avoid the ‘commodification’ of those workers, we need to try and create a bridge for ‘irregular’ third-country workers to gain regularisation and work in this sector.
At the heart of the sectoral approach, that is, the breaking up of ‘legal entry’ into different directives, was the unwillingness of member states to have one ‘permit’ combining in its scope all the key categories – seasonal workers, G4 workers, beneficiaries of international protection and so on.
With the sectoral approach, equal treatment of seasonal workers and EU workers is vital to ensure that a two-tier labour market and ‘social dumping’ do not result. Article 16 of the Commission proposal does not go far enough in this respect, with the danger of ECJ involvement.
These are some of the issues at stake if we are to ensure that we bring in protections for temporary non-EU workers, who are currently widely exploited.
For more information on these developments, please see the European Commission and European Parliament websites.